Understanding Stress

In the last 4 weeks, Dr Bill Howatt of Howatt HR has been helping us navigate through self-isolation by providing micro skills on how to charge our battery in the name of maintaining good mental health during this difficult time.

Creating a Mental Fitness Plan and writing it down is key in charging our battery in combination with the micro skills learned.  So far, we have learned to have an attitude of gratitude and the importance of making a social connection.  This week, we understand the impacts of stress during such a difficult period in our lives.

As you know, there is good stress (Eustress) in which there needs to be a balance to keep us motivated in the things we do every day.

There is also bad stress (Distress).  The balance of the frequency, intensity, and duration of this stress can predict our mental health risk.  This is made up of the difference between what you want and what you have.  If you are on the high end of distress you may relate to the following:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Increased emotional response
  • Memory loss
  • Feeling lonely
  • Loss of purpose
  • Increased sensitivity to stimulus
  • Increased procrastination
  • Increase physiological response

Some of us may cope with distress in negative ways such as drug and alcohol use, isolating ourselves, the use of food, or working too much.

Finding positive ways to cope with distress is important.  Some healthy habits in dealing with distress may include:

  • Having a support network
    • Personal and Professional
  • Maintaining social connection
  • Problem solving
  • Attitude of gratitude
  • Social connection
  • Exercise
  • Gardening
  • Pets
  • Reading or Music

If you have a habit of using a negative coping mechanism, it isn’t as simple as removing that behaviour.  The old behaviour needs to be replaced with a positive coping mechanism or behaviour.  For example, if you go to a bag of potato chips or a glass of wine when you are stressed, you can’t just stop going to the potato chips  or having the glass of wine, you need to be able to go to something else other than the potato chips or wine.

You will need to replace the eating or drinking habit with something else like exercise.  Go for a 20-minute walk.  If eating is what is preferred, substitute the potato chips for fruits or vegetables.   Find something that will work for you.  This will help the new behaviour become habit and in turn a positive method of coping with stress.

If you haven’t done so already, take the Mental Fitness Index survey.  Click here to see if you are charging your battery.  You will learn where you stand in regards to your own mental fitness and this may influence your Mental Fitness Plan.

Lock Out / Tag Out

Lockout/Tagout is a procedure to ensure equipment or an energized panel is turned off before starting to perform maintenance, repairs or adjustments.  Performing maintenance, repairs and adjustments on a live panel or equipment can result in a serious or fatal injury.

To lockout a panel or piece of equipment, turn the power off or remove the keys.  Then put a lock on the controls or startup mechanism of the panel or equipment.  A tag is also applied to let workers know that the equipment is not to be operated or the panel energized until the tag and lock are removed.

Only workers who apply the lock and tag are allowed to remove them.  The name of the person is written on the tag with their contact information.

Workers must be trained in the Lockout/Tagout procedures and show they are competent in the process and understanding the importance of this life saving procedure.

Sample Lock Out/Tag Out Procedure:

  1. Communicate the lock out requirement with all workers.
  2. Turn off the equipment or panel at the main control.
  3. Add the lock at the main control so no one can turn it on again.  The key must remain with the worker who applied the lock.
  4. Add a Lock Out Tag and/or additional lock if possible, to the panel or equipment where it can be started.
  5. Test the equipment or panel to ensure that they cannot be energized.
  6. Check for other forms of energy that could start the panel or equipment.  For example, on a tractor, loader or skid steer, you may need to block hydraulics before performing maintenance, repair or adjustments so they don’t move.
  7. Once it is confirmed that all energy sources have been locked or blacked, then it is safe to perform maintenance, repair or adjustments.
  8. Once the maintenance, repair and adjustments have been made, the worker who applied the lock and tag can then remove it.  Start with the locks and tags applied the furthest from the main control panel or source.
  9. Communicate to the other workers that the equipment is ready to use or the panel is now live.

All workers must be trained on this procedure even though they may not be applying the lock and tags themselves, to ensure they recognize the purpose of the lock out/tag out system.  It can save lives.

Making the Social Connection

Sitting in on the Tactics for Maintaining Mental Fitness During the COVID-19 Pandemic webinar with Dr Bill Howatt of Howatt HR this week we explored how to make a social connection while being in self-isolation, working from home, and observing social distancing rules.

A social connection is a basic psychological need and we are auto-programmed to social thinking. It is incorporated into our life satisfaction and a central element to human evolution. Having a lack of connection for some can be the same as having physical pain sensations.

Dr. Howatt says improving your social connection can result in:
• Improved Immune System Function
• Decreased Chronic Disease
• Decreased Inflammation
• 50% increase in Longevity
• Improved Sleep
• Higher Self-Esteem.

We need to prioritize making a social connection and we can do it in the following ways:
• Taking the time to listen to others
• Set up video chat time
• Use video work sessions
• Set up regular check-ins
• Ask about life outside of work
• Acknowledge successes and challenges

A valuable connection can be made by doing something as simple as saying hello and smiling at someone when you are out for a walk or waving to someone as they drive by the farm yard. These tools are also ways to charging your battery!

Take the Mental Fitness Index survey. See if you are charging your battery. I took the survey and found there were many really good questions in relation to mental well being that I hadn’t thought about before and found it valuable to go through the exercise. You may surprise yourself.

Flammables and Combustibles on the Farm

Flammable and combustible liquids are present on most farms such as gas and diesel fuel, solvents, cleaners, oxygen, acetylene and lubricants.   When used and stored correctly the gases and liquids rarely cause an issue on the farm.

Being knowledgeable when it comes to common terms and key concepts related to flammable and combustible liquids is one of the best ways to protect yourself.

Flammable and combustible liquids include:

  1. liquids that can burn and classified by their flashpoints.
  2. have a flashpoint at or above 100F or 37.8C and below 200F or 93.3C.

The FLASHPOINT of a liquid is the lowest temperature that the liquid gives off enough vapor at the surface of the liquid to ignite.  Knowing the flashpoint will tell you when conditions are best for them to ignite.

The AUTO-IGNITION TEMPERATURE is the temperature at or above which a material will spontaneously ignite without an external spark or flame.  Most of the flammable and combustible liquids used on the farm have an auto-ignition temperature in the range of 572F or 300°C to 1022F or 550C.

It is the mixture of the vapours of flammable and combustible liquids that burn not the product themselves.  Gasoline has a flashpoint of -40F or -40C, which means that even at temperatures as low as   -40°F or -40°C, it gives off enough vapor to form a burnable mixture in air.

In the sample Safety data sheet shown the flashpoint is -50 to -38C

The LOWER EXPLOSIVE LIMIT (LEL) is the minimum concentration of a gas or vapor necessary for it to combust in air is defined as the lower explosive limit or lower flammable limit (LEL or LFL).   This is expressed as a percentage.

The UPPER EXPLOSIVE LIMIT (UEL) is the maximum concentration of a gas or vapor that will allow it to burn in air is the upper explosive limit or upper flammable limit (UEL or UFL).  This is also expressed as a percentage.

Every combustible gas or vapor has a specific range of fuel to oxygen mixture during which it will ignite. The flammable range for every gas or vapor is the range between the LEL and UEL.

The take away, read the Safety Data Sheets for your Flammable and Combustible liquids on the farm to know the correct storage conditions and temperatures to prevent fires and explosions.

Have an Attitude of Gratitude!

Last week I attended a Mental Health Seminar on Tactics for Maintaining Mental Fitness During the COVID-19 Pandemic webinar by Dr Bill Howatt of Howatt HR.  The response to the seminar was so overwhelming that Dr. Howatt is now leading a seminar each week while we maintain self-isolation.

In the previous webinar, Dr. Howatt mentioned we need to intentionally charge our batteries especially during this time of isolation as it can drain our batteries quickly.   He mentioned making sure we prioritize sleep, be active, eat fruits and vegetables and find a connection as four ways to charge our batteries.  This week, he focused on maintaining a sense of gratitude.

Gratitude is the intention of being grateful and showing appreciation; acknowledging what is good in our lives.

How do you incorporate gratitude into your day?

  • Do you express it in a journal, write it on a post-it note and put it on your fridge?
  • Do you have a gratitude object like a picture or a stress ball?
  • Do you thank people in person or if at a distance, thank them mentally?
  • Do you acknowledge others?

He reminds us to be sure to write down our Mental Fitness Plan as what is written, gets done; therefore, intentionally charging our battery.   Keith Harrell, life coach and motivational speaker, of Harrell Performance Systems says:

“Write down what you want to do and for what purpose.  Make a plan to achieve it – and then put that plan into action!”

Security Measures When Using the Internet

Computers, cell phones, tablets, and other electronic equipment are not as private as we are led to believe.  Safe guard your identification badges and passwords.

There is also a possibility of sending misdirected e-mails, having cell phone conversations and sending texts with language we would not normally use if we were in front of the person.  Be sure to always use the electronic device as if you are in the room with the person in which your e-mail, phone call or text is directed.  Anonymity seems to make us braver and act differently than we normally would.

Below are some hints and tips to protect your internet security.

Internet Security Tips:

  • Have a specific e-mail address that you use only with family, friends, relatives, peers and colleagues. Depending on the e-mail address or service provider, it can be traced back to your location.
  • Use a general e-mail account like yahoo and Gmail for online activities such as Facebook, Group Chat, Newsgroups, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.
  • Do not fill in the personal profile sections in apps or webpages like Facebook, Group Chat, Newsgroups, Snapchat, and Twitter.
  • Use strong passwords. Should be something not easily guessed and of at least 10-12 characters.
  • Adjust settings and filters to block unwanted messages.
  • Choose your internet name and e-mail address wisely. Try not to identify who you are, your gender, or your location.
  • Do not open attachments that seem peculiar or unexpected from e-mail addresses you know and don’t know. If not sure, call the person or send a new e-mail to the person to check to see it is from them.
  • Do not reply to or open suspicious e-mails.
  • Set you internet browser security to high and be specific with the websites you visit. Unwanted visits to random websites can lead to unwanted messages and e-mails.
  • Cyberbullying and cyberstalking is as dangerous as if it was in person.
    • Report problems to local IT personnel or on the forum in which the events started. You may need to contact your internet service provider.
    • If the cyberbullying and cyberstalking continue, contact your local police and let them know you are concerned about your safety.
  • In the event, where laptops, tablets or phones are stolen, keep passwords and personal information in another location not on the electronic device.
  • Search your name on the internet to see what comes up. Were you easy to find?
  • Be wary of meeting someone in person you have met online whether through business or pleasure. Take precautions to protect your personal and physical security if you decide to go ahead and meet.

Today we need to be aware of the fraudulent phone calls, text messages, and e-mails known as phishing attacks where scammers try to steal your personal information and passwords.  Thousands of phishing attacks are launched on a daily basis and unfortunately, they are most often successful in gaining your information.  With our new imposed restrictions and requirement to isolate, many of us are working remotely and relying heavily on our electronic devices, this has made users vulnerable to attacks.

Here are a few samples of what messaging may look like when there is a phishing attack.  Remember these attacks can look like they are coming from someone you know.  The scammer uses special software to pretend to be someone they are not.

Sample Messaging of Phishing Attacks:

  • State in the e-mail or message they have noticed suspicious activity or log-in attempts.
  • State there may be a problem with your account or your payment information.
  • Ask you to confirm some personal information.
  • Attach a fake document to the e-mail.
  • Ask you to click on a link to make a payment.
  • State you have won something or entitled to monies.
  • Offer you discounts or rewards on products.

Protect your internet security by being kind to others and not trusting everyone.  It is ok to investigate e-mails and ask questions if you are not sure.  You are only one click away from a harmful situation if you don’t ask questions.

Are you recharging your battery?

Dr. Howatt, President of Howatt HR Consulting, believes being in isolation for 2 weeks will greatly impact our mental health.  He says, “we are like batteries, and like batteries we can be anywhere from charged to empty on a daily basis.”

Personal and situational stressors can drain your battery such as stress, burnout, anxiety, harassment, chronic issues, gossip, workload, distrust, depression, injuries, and incidents.

You need to intentionally recharge your battery by prioritizing sleep, being active, eating fruits and vegetables and finding a connection rather than self-medicating.

If you have been following the NSFA on social media you can see we are trying to stay connected using zoom and Snapchat.  Today we had a coffee break for 15 min over zoom just to catch up on what is going on with everyone.  We are going to continue this on a daily basis.

Find creative ways to stay connected and charge your battery.

If you feel you are struggling with anxiety and depression as well as the inability to charge your battery, there is an anonymous peer support group online called The Big White Wall.  Visit bigwhitewall.com.  I screen shot is below giving a few details of how they offer support.


Alternatively, another source to reach out to is the Farm Family Support Center at 1-844-880-9142 it is confidential and immediate support is available 24/7/365.

On-Farm Advisory Services

We know your time is valuable and you have very little of it to spare, so we did the work for you.  We found the perfect top dressing for your safety program needs. The Farm Safety Advisor!

The Farm Safety advisor can help you Mind the G.A.P FARM-FARM-FARM.

To implement a safety program of Good Analytical Practice you can FARM – Focused Approach Right Method – a Farm Safety Plan today to reduce the costs associated with incident and injury on the farm and ensure all of your workers and family return home in the same condition they went to the farm each day.

The Farm Safety Advisor will come to your farm and evaluate the health and safety hazards based on the tasks performed on your particular farm and help build a farm safety plan specific to your needs and farm activities.

Not only will a customized Farm Safety Plan reduce the incidents and injuries on your farm but it will enhance the safety culture as well as increase farm productivity, efficiency and sustainability.

If you are an NSFA member the cost of the On-Farm Advisory services after the initial consult is $75/hour plus expenses (travel, printing, and postage) and Non-Members it is $125/hour plus expenses (travel, printing, and postage).  Complete cost estimate to be provided and confirmed after the initial consultation.

Contact the Farm Safety Advisor today to book your consult.  Phone Lori Brookhouse at 902-893-2293 or e-mail lbrookhouse@nsfa-fane.ca.


Fatigue at Risk Management Program

Fatigue is as much or even more of a hazard like chemicals, farm machinery, silos, grain bins, manure pits, power tools, animal handling, etc.

Fatigue can result in slower reaction time, lack of good judgement, being more easily distracted, not being able to concentrate on tasks, and the work may not be of the same quality as usual.

As we learn to Mind the G.A.P. FARM-FARM-FARM. One FARM is Fatigue At Risk Management. If we reduce fatigue by recognizing the signs and symptoms, know the effects of fatigue impairment, use a system to mitigate the risk, have an incident reporting process to gain information on how fatigue played a role in an incident, and use a fatigue calculator to measure the risk, we can engage the slow part of the brain (the Tortoise) more quickly.

Engaging the Slow Brain will allow us to be think consciously, analytically, more reasoned, more reflective and thoughtful resulting in less incident and injuries on the farm. Take a look at the resources below:

Recognizing Fatigue

Quality Sleep Can Make All the Difference

Fatigue Risk Management System

Fatigue Incident Report Form

Fatigue Calculator

Fatigue Risk Management Policy


Ever wonder why you do things even though you know better?  Well, the part of the brain that makes you do that is called the Fast Brain (the hare).  It processes visual information and delivers feedback as quickly as possible resulting in generalized visual perceptions, may miss important changes and make mistakes.  It only takes 4/10 of a second for this part of the brain to rule your next decision or action.

We need to start engaging the Slow Brain (the tortoise) first.  It takes at least 1 second for the slow brain to react and even longer if you are tired.

Farm Safety Nova Scotia can help you engage your slow brain through Mind the G.A.P.  FARM-FARM-FARM




  • Pre-conscious
  • Automatic
  • Reactive
  • Habitual

  • Conscious
  • Analytical
  • Reasoned
  • Reflective
  • Thoughtful
Activation Time:

4/10 of a second

Activation Time:

  • At least one second
  • Fatigue creates a slower activation

Process visual information, give feedback quickly & you may miss important changes


  • Consciously goes through steps of a task
  • Evaluates all angles

  • None, on autopilot
  • Frequent errors

What’s the Cost?

  • Medical costs due to injury/illness
  • Replacement costs – tools & equipment
  • Repair costs – tools & equipment
  • Retraining – workers who fill in the absence
  • Legal – advice, lawsuits
  • Compliance or stop work orders – OHS
  • Reduced income – decreased productivity
  • Quality of life – injury affect workers abilities
  • Decrease moral – workers uncertain
What’s the Benefit?

  • Lower WCB costs or insurance costs
  • Increased production
  • Better quality of work
  • Positive safety culture
  • Increase profits
  • Return on investment
  • Prevent incident & injuries
  • Reduced stress
  • Increase sustainability
  • Consistent message
  • Worker retention

Join the movement and protect the tortoise from extinction.

FARM – Fatigue at Risk Management – reduce the fatigue.Mind the G.A.P.  FARM – FARM- FARM.

FARM – First Always Right-Minded – do the job right the first time.

FARM – Focused Approach; Right Method – clear and concise policies and procedures. Have a Plan.

Visit https://farmsafetyns.ca/farm-safety-plan/guide-to-farm-safety-plan/ to download your copy of the Farm Safety Plan Guide and Workbook resources.


  1. Progressive Agriculture Safety Day

    October 23 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Contact Us

7 Atlantic Central Drive
East Mountain, N.S.
B6L 2Z2

o: 902-893-2293
f: 902-893-7036
e: info@farmsafetyns.ca


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